The term is introduced by the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist:
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.”
The first time I read this novel was in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1971. though I didn’t know then how pertinent that would turn out to be… I had fallen ill with pneumonia and was more or less confined to bed. One day an American boy, who had the room next to me in the youth hostel brought me a book. “Heard you were ill! You must be terribly bored. Here’s something good to read!”
The book he gave me was Catch 22. After my first confusion I didn’t feel sick or pity myself anymore but was totally absorbed by this story, set in World War II, about the pilot John Yossarian, who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him and who is trying as hard as he can to get out of the war.
Besides he’s surrounded by madmen — Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly in order to finish their tour; Milo Minderbinder, a dedicated entrepreneur who bombs his own airfield when the Germans offer him an extra 6 percent; Major Major Major, whose tragedy in life is that he resembles Henry Fonda; and Major — de Coverley, whose face is so forbidding no one has dared ask his name.
No use to try to describe the book! Read it!